The Planning and Development Department in Pocatello has approved a variance to convert a former Mexican restaurant into an Islamic center or mosque.

A hearing examiner issued the findings of fact Tuesday allowing a variance for a religious building to be permitted in an area zoned for commercial use.

The Islamic Society of Southeastern Idaho applied for the variance seeking to create a place of worship for Muslims as well as an educational center.

A planning and zoning commission meeting on Feb. 13 turned into a religious discussion.

Supporters say the center is needed to meet the growing needs of Muslim students at Idaho State University.

But others told the commission they feared for their safety if the Islamic center was approved.